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Study Shows that Adventist Education Improves Learning

Despite all the recent turmoil in Adventist education, this week the Christian Science Monitor featured an opinion piece lauding our system. The author, Elissa Kiddo, Ed.D., Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at La Sierra University, relates some findings from the CognitiveGenesis research project she directs.

Between 2006 and 2010, my colleagues and I analyzed test scores of 51,706 students, based on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for Grades 3-8, the Iowa Test of Educational Development for Grades 9 and 11, and the Cognitive Abilities Test for all grades, as well as surveys completed by students, parents, teachers, and school administrators.

In each subject category, students attending Adventist schools scored higher than the national average. They also scored higher than their expected achievement based on assessment of individual ability – a factor few other schools measure.

One of our most dramatic findings is that students who transferred to Adventist schools saw a marked improvement in academic achievement. The more years a student attended an Adventist school, the more his or her performance improved.

The study also reports that socioeconomic status and funding are not factors. In fact, according to “research by Dave Lawrence, a graduate student at La Sierra University. . .students at Adventist schools that spend as little as $2,000 to $4,000 per pupil are roughly at the same achievement level as students in schools that spend as much as $12,000 per student. Mr. Lawrence found no significant correlation between a school’s budget and student achievement.”

The piece suggests that the cause is the holistic philosophy of Adventist education–with its emphasis on the mental, spiritual, and the physical. It would be interesting to see a study that compares how that oft-referenced tripartite signifier of Adventist education compares to other faith-based private schools with standardized curricula and physical education components.

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